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Prediction of junior faculty success in biomedical research: comparison of metrics and effects of mentoring programs
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Measuring and predicting the success of junior faculty is of considerable interest to faculty, academic institutions, funding agencies and faculty development and mentoring programs. Various metrics have been proposed to evaluate and predict research success and impact, such as the h-index, and modifications of this index, but they have not been evaluated and validated side-by-side in a rigorous empirical study. Our study provides a retrospective analysis of how well bibliographic metrics and formulas (numbers of total, first-and co-authored papers in the PubMed database, numbers of papers in high-impact journals) would have predicted the success of biomedical investigators (n = 40) affiliated with the University of Nevada, Reno, prior to, and after completion of significant mentoring and research support (through funded Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence, COBREs), or lack thereof (unfunded COBREs), in 2000-2014. The h-index and similar indices had little prognostic value. Publishing as mid-or even first author in only one high-impact journal was poorly correlated with future success. Remarkably, junior investigators with >6 first-author papers within 10 years were significantly (p < 0.0001) more likely (93%) to succeed than those with <= 6 first-author papers (4%), regardless of the journal's impact factor. The benefit of COBRE-support increased the success rate of junior faculty approximately 3-fold, from 15% to 47%. Our work defines a previously neglected set of metrics that predicted the success of junior faculty with high fidelity-thus defining the pool of faculty that will benefit the most from faculty development programs such as COBREs.